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Suspended for touching a child's head and face

Emergency   (4,856 Views 44 Comments)
by GG66 GG66 (New) New Nurse

GG66 specializes in ER.

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Hi my fabulous ER sisters and brothers.  I'm an older nurse and have been in the ER for 5 years.  In my 30 years of nursing I have always used touch therapy.  I find showing compassion and tenderness goes a long way to soothing a patient.  I have just received a 2 day suspension for touching the head and face of a child.  There was no parental complaint and nothing was inappropriate but they used the words "inappropriate touching" and said that it was too intimate.  I'd really like to know how many of you will casually pat a child's head or caress a cheek when soothing or reassuring a pediatric patient.  I have done this my whole career and never had a problem so I'm struggling to understand what I did wrong and why it's a problem all of a sudden.

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Pixie.RN has 11 years experience as a MSN, RN, EMT-P and specializes in EMS, ED, Trauma, CNE, CEN, CPEN, TCRN.

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Are you referring to something like Reiki, or a quick pat on the head? 

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GG66 specializes in ER.

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2 minutes ago, Pixie.RN said:

Are you referring to something like Reiki, or a quick pat on the head? 

not Reiki, just a little stroke of head and cheek while giving a 9 year old an ice pack for an injured arm

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Nurse.Kelsey has 0 years experience as a RN and specializes in Pediatric Home Health (LPN).

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2 hours ago, GG66 said:

 There was no parental complaint and nothing was inappropriate but they used the words "inappropriate touching" and said that it was too intimate.  

There WAS a parental complaint. They didnt like it, didnt voice it to you directly... It happens. That sucks that they used those words to complain making it seem more serious. 

Therapeutic touch in nursing is always okay when appropriate. It sounds like thats what you were doing. If maybe you feel like it wasn't then I guess think twice about when you utilize therapeutic touch?

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Similar thing happened to me for patting the diapered butt of a toddler that was hysterical from having an axillary temp taken. It was a "pat,pat,you're done buddy" kind of thing. Mom said I "beat" the child. They humored her and I lost my job. I really hope that karma is a thing.

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Pixie.RN has 11 years experience as a MSN, RN, EMT-P and specializes in EMS, ED, Trauma, CNE, CEN, CPEN, TCRN.

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It could have been the patient who complained to the parents afterwards, too. Either way, someone didn't like it. Our environment and society is definitely not what it was 30 years ago when you started your career. So sorry this happened.

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11 hours ago, GG66 said:

There was no parental complaint and nothing was inappropriate but they used the words "inappropriate touching" and said that it was too intimate.

Taking your version of things at face value, that is absolute BS wording they used to categorize your actions; it has very clear sexual connotations in our society. I would defend myself (against this verbiage used by your employer) assertively; including having a lawyer encourage them to walk it back. There is a world of difference between "inappropriate touching" and what you are describing. I'm so sorry you are being treated this way; I'm sure it hurts right down to the core.

I am careful about people's space, period. I am cognizant of what the person themselves might think--and also any onlookers. I would encourage you to rethink your idea of therapeutic touch; it may be painful but be very neutral for a moment:  A child is not truly likely to be actually comforted by a stranger touching his/her face in this scary, stressful situation. So, it's likely that we do these things because we believe they are a way to demonstrably show that we care. But there are other ways. Smiles, appropriate vocal tones, getting down on their level instead of looming over them, use of distrators (toys, stickers, some of our equipment such the pulse ox light, etc.) making interesting/distracting conversation, being very gentle with their hurt area, etc.

I respect your years of experience and realize I'm not telling you anything you don't know as far as the methods themselves....I'm just pointing out that in addition to being practical, they are legitimate ways we convey care/caring. We do not need to try to evoke actual love or tenderness feelings in order to convey caring. We have very short-term relationships with these people. I hope that makes sense because I mean it in a helpful spirit with your protection and best interest in mind. 💮

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Wow this scares me. This is the reason so many nurses are hesitant to do their jobs. Patient complaints are often taken seriously regardless of how absolutely ridiculous they may be.

I was taught in nursing school not to give two opioids at the same time. The first verbal warning I ever received was for refusing to give a patient oxy and morphine at the same time. I was so confused.

Sorry this happened to you. I would probably start job hunting. Seems like a unit culture issue to me. I have to be able to trust management to have my back.

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1 hour ago, JKL33 said:

Taking your version of things at face value, that is absolute BS wording they used to categorize your actions; it has very clear sexual connotations in our society. I would defend myself (against this verbiage used by your employer) assertively; including having a lawyer encourage them to walk it back. There is a world of difference between "inappropriate touching" and what you are describing.

Good Lord I didn't even think of that! 😳  This could go all sorts of south. I agree, get an attorney and pronto!

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Pixie.RN has 11 years experience as a MSN, RN, EMT-P and specializes in EMS, ED, Trauma, CNE, CEN, CPEN, TCRN.

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20 minutes ago, Wuzzie said:

Good Lord I didn't even think of that! 😳  This could go all sorts of south. I agree, get an attorney and pronto!

That makes two of us! Ugh. OP, I also agree that this could potentially go down a bad road and you need to protect yourself. 

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52 minutes ago, Wuzzie said:

Good Lord I didn't even think of that! 😳  This could go all sorts of south. I agree, get an attorney and pronto!

 

30 minutes ago, Pixie.RN said:

That makes two of us! Ugh. OP, I also agree that this could potentially go down a bad road and you need to protect yourself. 

 

TBH if those are the exact words the employer threw at this OP, it practically enrages me. If someone (anyone, anywhere) said there was "inappropriate touching" going on, and you didn't have the benefit of knowing the OP scenario, what would you think?

Imagine trying to explain that you were suspended for "inappropriate touching" or that you parted ways with your last employer because you "inappropriately touched" a patient. Come on.

People are sick in their craziness and sick imaginations about others. It says more about them than it does us.

But wait...there is also another fun possibility: The hospital received basic feedback that the child/family felt this type of touch was...meh...a little awkward. And then, for their own *%#@ing inexplicable reasons, the hospital has decided to ramp it up and "send a message" and above all go to every psychotic extent they can think of to make sure everyone knows they "took it seriously." 

ETA: Either the family exaggerated this, or the hospital is; one of these two things is the case, or else there is no need for something as drastic as a suspension. [Based on the presentation of the OP, I find it appropriate to give them the benefit of the doubt that a third possibility is not likely].

Edited by JKL33

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